Mental health conditions, phobias, and other mental aversions are a major problem worldwide. While anxiety, depression, and phobia strike everyone differently, one thing that certainly is a popular trigger for people suffering with mental health issues is flying. Whether it’s an aversion towards cramped spaces, a fear of heights, or paranoia surrounding flight safety, there are many different triggers attributed to air travel. While there are therapies that exist to combat these conditions, new therapies are emerging thanks to the proliferation of virtual reality headsets in the marketplace. While many attribute virtual reality to gaming applications, the potential of virtual reality is pretty much limitless. This includes medical applications. I spoke with JustFly, an authority on travel, to get the latest on how people are using virtual reality to help treat mental health conditions triggered by flying.
First things first, a lot of people are afraid of flying. While this ranges from mild worry to crippling anxiety, a true statistic regarding the number of people who fear flying is hard to nail down. What is easy to nail down is the miraculous safety record of airplanes. According to JustFly’s review, a person has a 1 in 4.7 million odds of being in a plane crash. Comparatively, the odds of being fatally injured in a car crash is 1 in 14,000, lending confidence to the popular saying “you are more likely to die on your way to the airport”.
So, what are the conventional treatments for a fear of flying. The two most popular methods are cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy is essentially a form of therapy that works to help develop strategies to mitigate the effects of mental health conditions. Exposure therapy is straightforward. It is the exposure of a patient to the subject of their fears in a controlled setting. It is generally considered the most popular theory for treating phobias. While these therapies are still useful, they are the subject of the virtual reality revolution we are seeing.
According to JustFly, therapies like exposure therapy are being revolutionized by virtual reality. While finding appropriate situations for exposure therapy to be effective can be difficult, using virtual reality has made it much easier to safely expose patients to their fears. In lockstep with this is the believability of virtual reality. While consumer virtual reality units are popping up all over the place, virtual reality has been in existence for some time in primitive forms. With the improvements in the technology and the reduction in cost, people are just now beginning to dig their claws into virtual reality tech and finding applications beyond gaming.